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Newt Gingrich v. The Nine: Can POTUS Ignore SCOTUS?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Lawyers are bound by the courts. We may disagree with judges, but we respect their decisions. If we fail to do so, we can be fined, or even jailed.

But is the President of the United States bound by the same limitations as mere mortal lawyers? Not according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In fact, Gingrich claims that the POTUS can simply "ignore" a Supreme Court decision that he deems "fundamentally wrong."

The Court's Boumediene decision, extending habeas corpus to enemy combatants, would top the presidential hit list in a Gingrich White House; Gingrich has promised that one of his first acts as president would be to override the 2008 decision. "I will issue an executive order to the national security apparatus that it will not enforce Boumediene and it will regard it as null and void because it is an absurd extension of the Supreme Court to the commander in chief's [authority]," reports The Guardian.

Gingrich suggests that Abraham Lincoln's refusal to abide by the Court's Dred Scott decision supports his presidential supremacy point of view. (Sidebar: One notable distinction between the two cases is that Lincoln defied Dred Scott to expand rights, while Gingrich would defy Boumediene to limit them.)

But Gingrich would at least allow judges to explain their "radical decisions." On Face the Nation, he asserted that the president could use the Capitol Police or U.S. Marshall's Service to haul judges who make controversial rulings before Congress to justify their decisions, reports The Washington Post. (Sidebar II: Isn't that why we have written opinions?)

Lawyers, both conservative and liberal, think that Gingrich's approach is dangerous. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, described the Gingrich approach to the judiciary as "ridiculous," "irresponsible," "outrageous," and "dangerous," reports Slate.

Disregarding the Supreme Court is a double-edged sword that could work against both ends of the ideological spectrum. By Gingrich's logic, President Obama could lose the individual mandate battle in the Supreme Court, win re-election in November, and then order government agencies to enforce the Court-nullified law, according to the Post. Perhaps that's why Gingrich's fellow candidates aren't jumping aboard the ignore-the-courts bandwagon.

How realistic is a Newt Gingrich-perpetuated Constitutional crisis? Gingrich had a solid win in the South Carolina primary, but the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows him running nine points behind Mitt Romney in the Florida Republican primary, reports CNN. While Romney is leading the Republican primary race -- in what could be turning into a two-man battle -- it's too early to discount the possibility that Gingrich could face off against the Supreme Court in 2013.

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